Managing The Trump Phenomenon with Prudence

June 17, 2017

Managing The Trump Phenomenon with Prudence

by Jorge G. Castañeda–casta-eda

Professor Jorge G. Castaneda was Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 2000-2003, after joining with his ideological opponent, President Vicente Fox, to create the country’s first democratic government. He is currently Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University, and is the author of The Latin American Left After the Cold War and Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara.

Trump’s domestic opponents should be careful what they wish for, and America’s allies should try to find a way to engage with his administration more effectively. Like it or not, the world’s best option is to ensure that the next three and a half years are as successful – or at least as resistant to disaster – as possible.–Jorge G. Castaneda

The world’s view of US President Donald Trump’s administration is changing for the worse. In fact, the chaos and controversy that have marked Trump’s short time in office have deepened doubts, both inside and outside the United States, about whether his presidency will even survive its entire four-year term.

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Europe’s perspective was articulated most clearly by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. After a contentious NATO summit and a discordant G7 meeting, she concluded that the US, under Trump, can no longer be viewed as a reliable partner. “The times in which we could rely fully on others,” she stated pointedly, “are somewhat over.”

Merkel’s statements were driven partly by disagreement between Trump and Europe on climate change, trade, NATO (particularly Article 5, its collective defense clause, which Trump refused to endorse), and relations with Russia. But disagreement on such issues reflects divisions within Trump’s own administration, raising questions about who, if anybody, is actually in charge.

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White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks, chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon and policy adviser Stephen Miller | Getty

Consider Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement. The move was advocated by Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and his speechwriter, Stephen Miller. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as well as Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner – both of whom are official White House advisers – also may not have supported withdrawal from the accord, despite Tillerson’s public defense of his boss’s decision.

Trade is another internally disputed issue. Bannon opposes the existing order of global openness, as does Peter Navarro, who heads the White House National Trade Council. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross supports open trade, but not without reservation. Similarly, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would prefer bare-knuckle negotiations to disruption, though he is already in a spat with Ross.

On NATO and Russia, Tillerson has echoed Trump in pressuring the Alliance’s European members to increase their defense spending. But he has also taken a harder line on Russia than Trump, calling for a strong and united approach by the US and Europe. While National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster agrees with Tillerson in theory, turf battles between the two posts’ occupants – a time-honored tradition – have already begun.

Such infighting has raised concerns far beyond Europe. As one Latin American foreign minister told me recently, “Apparently everybody is fighting with everybody over everything.” Add to that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia, as well as the administration’s plummeting approval ratings, and it is easy to understand why some are doubting whether they should bother to engage with Trump at all. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has postponed meeting with Trump indefinitely, and other countries, too, are placing ties with the US on hold.

With a premature end to Trump’s presidency becoming less farfetched by the day, it is worth asking how it could come about. There are three possibilities.

The first and best-known route is impeachment: a majority in the House of Representatives would indict Trump for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and a two-thirds majority in the Senate would convict him, removing him from power. Such an outcome – which would require the support of 20 Republican representatives and 18 Republican senators, plus all Democrats in both houses – remains highly unlikely. But everything could change if the investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election and the possibility of collusion with Trump’s campaign reveals a smoking gun.

The second option, per Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, would require the vice president and the cabinet or Congress to declare the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” This seems even more unlikely than impeachment, unless some of Trump’s behavior – like his middle-of-the-night tweets or private rants against his aides (most recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions) – clearly indicates neurological dysfunction or psychopathology.

The third option, which some have called the “Nixonian solution,” is the most intriguing. In 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned before Congress could vote to impeach him. Weeks later, Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford granted him a full and unconditional pardon for all possible crimes.

In Trump’s case, such a resignation could be spurred by the desire for a similar pardon. While Trump cannot be indicted on criminal charges while president, he can be prosecuted for illegal behavior after he leaves office.

Moreover, both Kushner, who has been accused of attempting to set up a back channel for secure communication between the White House and the Kremlin, and Ivanka would be subject to prosecution if they were found to have engaged in illegal communications or activities with Russian agents or officials. Trump’s two eldest sons, who run his business empire, may also be liable for misdeeds. If this threat becomes salient, Trump may prefer to resign and secure a pardon for all involved, rather than endure an impeachment process that may well end with him losing the presidency anyway.

But while Trump’s opponents might like to remove him from power, any of these scenarios could be highly damaging to the US and the rest of the world. American participation, if not leadership, is indispensable to international cooperation in areas like global trade, climate action, and responses to all manner of crises, whether natural, humanitarian, or nuclear. Moreover, Trump’s isolationism doesn’t imply US irrelevance or passivity; a distracted or disrupted America could be much worse.

Given this, Trump’s domestic opponents should be careful what they wish for, and America’s allies should try to find a way to engage with his administration more effectively. Like it or not, the world’s best option is to ensure that the next three and a half years are as successful – or at least as resistant to disaster – as possible.

12 thoughts on “Managing The Trump Phenomenon with Prudence

  1. On the international stage like as in politics,it is mostly about perception.And the perception the international community have about Donald Trump is nothing much to scream about,that is if one is an ardent fan of the “groper in chief”.From the UK to Germany to France to China,Donald Trump’s name on newspapers are like “circus clown” to “laughing stock ” of the world.

    His hiding behind the wall,Muslim ban,retreat from the Paris accord to trade protectionism have some leaders calling him the leader of a “banana republic”.It is a wonder how smart the American voters are,having voted in man who never had any respect for the law? After all,what can one expect from a man who tried to rape a lady business acquaintance in her daughter,Ivanka’s bedroom in Mar a Lago?And a man who can grab them by the “pu*sies”?

  2. China,by all means must be laughing all the way to the bank.Where Donald Trump is going,leading the land of the free backwards,China is picking up the pieces.China is stepping up to the plate,cozying up to the leaders of the EU.And China have all the means to do so.And it is coming back to the world stage as a main player.

    China is financially sound,with containers of $US of surpluses.And out of nowhere,it now have two aircraft carriers.It is just a matter of time before China have a half dozen aircraft carriers.China is now on path to become the world’s number 1 economic superpower and soon will overtake Russia as the world’s number 2 superpower.What will happen if and when China and it’s allies decide to dump their $US denominated holdings?

  3. Conspiracy theorist and loyal Donald Trump supporter Newt Gingrich is now admitting that the Russia scandal will likely result in people in Trump’s circle – maybe even Trump himself – going to jail. The comment came – where else? – on Fox News, of course, during an interview with Sean Hannity yesterday and Gingrich told the right-wing hack that “they’re going to get somebody.”

    Despite the fact that the investigators, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller, are planning to follow the growing amount of evidence that shows possible presidential obstruction of justice and questionable ties between Trump’s team and Russia, Gingrich offered the ludicrous conspiracy theory that the FBI will only throw people in prison because they are desperate to nail somebody. It’s clear that Gingrich, along with many other Republican allies of Trump, is becoming unhinged as this investigation worsens for Trump. Instead of blaming Trump or searching for the truth, they are sowing seeds of conspiracy and focusing their attacks on credible people running a serious investigation.

    Though his reasoning is off by ten thousand mile, he is probably correct: The Russia/obstruction of justice scandal is getting worse for Trump’s White House by the day, and jail time is becoming increasingly likely.

    Shiou, are you enraged by the investigation of your emperor, son of heaven? Take 10,000 MG tranquilizer to calm yourself if you have to. Mangalam bhuyat (Buddha bless you). Here’s a song for you:


    You and I know that Newt is not a paragon of virtue. It is sad that he is a member of Lincoln’s party.I do not take him seriously, after his contract with America fiasco.–Din Merican

    • Yes, Din, Newt Gingrich is a disgrace. He’s erratic and impulsive and he had a long-running ethics problem while serving in Congress – a string of 84 ethics complaints in the House. He became the first speaker in history to be sanctioned by the House. But most American people have short memory.

  4. Talking about Newt.Well,he had married three times.Trump and Giuliani have married three times too.Among the three amigos,Giuliani is the worst of the lot.He divorced his second wife on TV.Newt divorced his second wife because she was bed ridden.Trump got cheated by his second wife on the beach with her bodyguard.Got caught after beach closing hours and brought to the police station.News media swarmed to the police station and the rabbit was let out of the bag.Trump is not the only one who knows how to cheat in his family.

    Giuliani and Newt got lots of baggage too.That was the reason they were both thrown under the bus.After their shelf lives have expired.So much for loyalty.This coming Monday,lawyers will file a suit in New York for the judge to demand papers from a Trump associate who holds a majority share in one of Trump’s buildings in Manhattan.This guy is an European gangster by the name of Felik Sater.The special counsel,Mueller,will eventually dig up enough dirt to put the Trump organization out of business.Money laundering for Russians and Eastern European gangsters.Many of Trump’s children and his son in law will go to prison too.There is no way Mueller and his team of top notch prosecutors and the FBI is going to let this bunch of double dealings Russian puppets get away.

  5. And one of the lawyers coordinating this lawsuit is an ethics lawyer for George W Bush’s white house.And a republican for thirty years.

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